Richard Castaldo, 17 in 1999.
Richard was a friend of Rachel Scott
and was sitting on the grassy knoll outside near the west entrance of the school. They had taken to eating lunch together recently and were doing just that when the shooters first opened fire. Richard had barely noticed the two shooters when the bullets hit him
. He fell over, critically injured. He could hear Rachel crying and was sure she had been shot too. Though he had seen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold around campus before, Richard did not know them and hadn't recognized them when they opened fire. Richard and Rachel were the first of what would be several victims.
Badly injured, Richard played dead till law enforcement came to pull him off the grass about 20 minutes after the shooting began. He suffered five gunshot wounds to his left arm, chest, back and abdomen. His lungs, kidney, and spleen were damaged and one of his vertebrae was fractured between the shoulders, leaving him
paralyzed from the chest down. He was moved from the Swedish Medical Center June 1, 1999 to Craig Hospital
for spinal cord rehabilitation. He was released August 21, 1999; he the last of the injured to be released from the hospitals. He remains in a wheelchair.
He got his driver's license in February, 2000, and drives a van modified for his wheelchair. He planned to attend Arapahoe Community College and wants to have a career a sound designer in the game design field (see his online resumé
). He was featured in Michael Moore's 'Bowling for Columbine
' documentary wherein he (along with Mark Taylor
) managed to convince K-mart to stop selling ammunition. It came out later that Moore was less than honest with Richard and the other survivors regarding his intentions with the film.
In 2000, Castaldo's father Rick made a congressional testimony about Project Exile: The Safe Streets and Neighborhoods Act of 2000
. According to his statement, he and Richard didn't blame the guns for what happened. They also didn't feel that making more laws would help as over 17 federal laws were already broken during the course of the shootings at Columbine High. Instead they wanted the government to focus on prosecuting to the full extent laws that were already in place.
May 6, 2006 Richard was interviewed
about his opinions regarding the Super Columbine Massacre RPG!
, which he downloaded and played, to see exactly what it was. In his words:
"I appreciate the fact at least to some degree that something like this was made. I think that at least it gets people talking about Columbine in a unique perspective, which is probably a good thing. But that being said there are a lot of things that are hard to play or watch. And it seems to partially glamorize what happened."
Director Danny Ledonne put out a documentary film in 2008 called Playing Columbine
that Richard Castaldo was featured in regarding the subject of the game and the Columbine shootings.
Photos of Richard Castaldo:
+ Richard in the hospital 1999
+ Richard in the hospital just before release
+ Richard at home with his family
+ Richard's modified van he drives
+ Most recent photo of Richard
, 15 in 1999.
Sean was in the lunch room with several friends including Dan Rohrbourgh
and Lance Kirklin
. Lance had been making centerpieces out of everyone's plates and decided he wanted to go have a cigarette. Sean and Dan decided to go with him and the boys had just left the cafeteria and were heading toward the grassy knoll with plans to go to "Smokers' Pit", an area at Clement Park across the street that was popular with the smoking crowd who attended Columbine. The shooters were roughly twelve feet away when Sean saw them. According to his statement in the Columbine Report, he remembered "looking up the hill and seeing black clothes". He saw two people in black, the tallest of which had a duffel bag at his feet.
The three friends were nearly to the top of the hill when the shooter who would later be identified as Eric Harris loaded his gun, then turned and fired on the west entrance about 10 times. The taller shooter, later identified as Dylan Klebold, turned and saw Sean and his friends. Dylan opened fire and Eric followed suit and Sean heard Dan yell. Dan stumbled back into Sean and fell; Sean saw Dylan point his weapon at him then and he felt something graze his ear. Sean thought it was a paint ball gun, under the mistaken impression that it was senior prank day. Lance turned to run and was shot in the leg. He fell to the ground and Sean realized that it was not
a prank. He turned to run as well; he took three shots to the abdomen and back but still managed to make it as far as the cafeteria door
before a shot to the leg brought him down. At first he thought he'd been hit by shots from a tranquilizer gun because his legs gave out.
He saw that the cafeteria door was closing so he stuck his arm in the way, yelling to people inside to get the tranquilizers off his back. A female dean tried to pull him inside but another school employee told her not to move him because of his back. He tried then to scoot inside the doorway but couldn't; he was caught half in and half out of the cafeteria. He could hear explosions coming from the commons. He took off his backpack because his back was hurting but he still couldn't quite grasp that he'd really been shot. He saw a bullet hole on the back side of his backpack but didn't see an exit and thought the bullet must be stuck in a book. A lady inside the cafeteria tried to comfort him then she was gone and Sean decided to play dead there, wedged halfway inside the building. Dylan stepped on him when that shooter entered the cafeteria to check on the bombs left there earlier. He could hear shots inside and more explosions.
At one point the janitor came over to hold Sean's hand; Sean told him to leave so the shooters - who were still in the school - wouldn't know he was alive. He told the man that he wanted to play dead so the janitor left him. There were more explosions from the common area and then the propane bomb partially detonated. There was a "swoosh of a fire ball" and the overhead sprinklers came on. The cafeteria was on fire and he was stepped on again by students trying to escape the blast. He heard some say "don't leave him" but the only thing he could do was lay there and pray. He started to lose consciousness about the time he heard sirens. He remembered medics coming to pull him to safety but couldn't remember anything of the event after that.
When asked by investigators about the Trench Coat Mafia (TCM) he said that he knew them by name only, dating back to when he was attending Ken Caryl Middle School (the same school, incidentally, that Eric Harris attended). However, he never associated the shooters with the group, telling invesitgators the he'd seen the members of the TCM in passing and didn't know any by name. He also told them that he didn't remember seeing any members of the TCM the day of the shooting.
Sean was best friends with fellow victim Patrick Ireland
; both boys were good friends of the deceased Danny Rohrbourgh
. Sean and Lance Kirklin
haven't spoken much about that day, Sean told reporters. He said he that he gets too emotional to talk to Lance in person, preferring email correspondence as of 1999.
His back/spine injury was deemed an 'incomplete spinal injury' by doctors, meaning that he was paralyzed below the injury level but retained some feeling and movement. He was later moved to Craig Hospital for spinal cord rehabilitation. On June 20th, 1999 he took his first steps. He was released from Craig July 7th, 1999.
Sean told reporters he used to have nightmares about being shot long before the attack on Columbine. Those nightmares stopped after the shooting. His home was rebuilt to accomodate the wheelchair he was using at the time and donations from folks around the world paid for a home gym to assist his personal therapy. Sean's father Randy purchased him a used pick-up truck when Sean was 16, when the teen proved to his father he could get in and out of it unassisted.
Sean graduated from Columbine in 2002, using only a crutch to walk across the stage to receive his diploma. That same year a 20-year-old Sean went back to Columbine for the 5th 'anniversary' of the tragedy. He planned to place a cigar on the ground where Danny died.
"Watching my friend die is still traumatic, but it is in the past. I'm not trying to be mean. I just have to focus on today and looking at the positive and the future."
-- Sean Graves (see the article
Anne Marie Hochhalter, 17 in 1999.
Anne Marie was outside eating lunch on the grassy knoll with two friends when the shooting began. At first she thought it was a joke but when she saw students getting shot in the legs, she realized it was for real. She tried to run to the safety of the cafeteria and was shot
by one of the gunmen [Eric Harris
], once in the back and once in the chest. Paralyzed by a bullet that damaged her spinal cord and diaphragm (it was later found lodged in her liver), she collapsed, unable to move. She told investigators later that while she was playing dead she could hear one of the gunmen shouting orders to the other but couldn't understand what they were saying. If rescue workers had been as little as two minutes slower in reaching her, she would have died. As such doctors later called her the "miracle girl". She was later moved to Craig Hospital for spinal cord rehabilitation. She spent four months in the hospital.
Her mother Carla - who'd been diagnosed with depression even before the shootings - committed suicide
6 months later, on October 22, 1999. The reports say she went to a pawn shop, bought a gun, loaded it and killed herself on the spot. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. Her father Ted remarried a year later, marrying one of the grief counselors he and Anne met.
Her 16 year old brother Nathan was also a student at Columbine. While the shooting occured, Nathan was trapped in a science room. Anne Marie underwent therapy at Craig Hospital with Patrick Ireland
and resumed school Sept. 9 1999, taking one Physics class with him. Her family bought a house with wheelchair ramps and lifts with the help of Colorado Homebuilders Foundation. At age 18, she was attending Columbine part time and helped out in the nurse's office in addition to taking classes. She wanted to go on to community college once she graduated but had planned to take the summer of 2000 off to "be a teen" since she'd lost that time the previous summer.
The following is Anne Marie's open letter to the public the day she was released from the hospital and is unedited.
"To all the people who have cared about me from the day I was hurt:
I am leaving Craig Hospital today and didn't want to have a press conference, but wanted to write my own press release. I have wanted to be private during my recovery, and I appreciate the media's respect for my wishes.
I have many thanks to share. First, I wish to thank my family who has loved and supported me all through my recovery. I would like to thank the paramedics and staff at Swedish Medical Center who saved my life. I want to thank the Craig Hospital staff who taught me the skills to be independent again. I want to thank my many friends who have visited me and cared about my well-being from the very beginning.
Thanks also to the families who have brought meals to my family every night, and to all the caring people across the country who prayed for me, and who sent wonderful gifts and cards. They meant a lot to me. Your loving care and support have helped me tremendously to get through my recovery.
I still have many obstacles to overcome, but I know that I can do it, and God will give me strength along the way.
Once again, I give my thanks to all of you."
Anne Marie Hochhalter
August 12, 1999
Pictures of Anne Marie in her new home in Littleton.
Despite the hope in Anne Marie's letter just two months later her family was in the news again, this time following the suicide of her mother, Carla
. Carla Hochhalter entered Alpha Pawn Shop in Englewood where she asked to see a gun. While the clerk filled out Mrs. Hochhalter's background check, Carla loaded the gun with bullets she'd brought in and shot herself in front of about 10 people. Carla had been struggling for 3 years with depression before the shootings. She was hospitalized September 16, 1999, after she turned up at an ER seeking help for her mental state. She was released October 14 to an outpatient program. She died October 22nd. The Hochhalter family later sued
the hospital for failure to diagnose her as suicidal and for failing to keep her hospitalized.
In 2000, Anne Marie met with the media
for an update. She still couldn't walk and was often in severe pain. Her mother's suicide had set back her rehabilitation but she was making progress; slow, painful progress.
Valeen "Val" Schnurr, 18 in 1999.
Valeen was in the library during the shootings. She had been sitting on a chair near a table that was close to the main entrance and a window that looked out into the hallway. At the table were seated her friends Jessica Holliday (who left the table shortly after Val's arrival), Lisa Kreutz
, Diwata Perez, Lauren Townsend
, and Jeanna Park
. Another girl [Kelly Fleming
] was seated at the table as well. Valeen had chosen to sit near, not at, the table due to the fact that she had arrived late and the table was full. While Val was reading she heard a shot and shortly after, teacher Patti Nielson
came in, telling everyone to get down. Val hid moved to the table where Jessica had been and hid beneath it, along with the other girls who had been sitting there. She found herself sitting next to Lauren, who pulled her closer and told her that everything would be okay. At that time many of the students thought it was all just a senior prank.
When the shooters entered the library, all she could see was their legs. She heard them yell at Isaiah Shoels
and then shoot a couple of people before one of the shooters [Dylan Klebold
] moved over to her table. He shot beneath it
, injuring her and Lisa Kreutz. He fired again, as fast as his gun would shoot, this time killing Lauren
. Val fell out from under the table, realizing only then that her stomach and abdomen were hurt. Panicking, Val repeatedly cried out: "Oh, my God! Help me!"
There was some controversy for a while about "who said 'yes'?" - for a long while news contended Cassie Bernall
was a martyr who was shot for answering 'yes' when one of the shooters asked her if she believed in God. Joshua Lapp, one of the students who was in the library but uninjured stated that the killers spoke to many students, and asked more than one if they believed in God. What their answer was didn't seem to dictate whether they got shot or not.
Attracted by Val's cries, the shooters both came over to where she was. One of the shooters, who was reloading his weapon at the time, then asked her if she believed in God. She floundered in her answer, saying no at first and then yes, trying to get the answer 'right'. He asked her 'Why?' and she said it was because it was what her family believed. Valeen then crawled back under the table where she lay down and played dead until the shooters left the library. She tried then to wake Lauren but when she couldn't, Val fled the library. She was one of the last to leave the library, of those that could.
Val suffered nine soft tissue wounds to her left arm, chest, and abdomen from shrapnel and through-and-through bullet wounds. she was released from Swedish April 27. Graduated from Columbine May 22. She graduated from Columbine
May 23, 1999 despite her injuries.